Smart sensors and the future of intelligent systems

Smart sensors and the future of intelligent systems

By Hakan Özdoğan

This is part 1 of our 2 article series on the applications of smart sensors. In this article, we cover non-medical related technologies and their applications in intelligent system infrastructures. 

What are smart sensors?

Smart sensors are defined as sensors equipped with signal conditioning, embedded algorithms, and digital interfaces. A smart sensor may also include a number of other components such as transducers, amplifiers, excitation control, analog filters, and compensation. They have recently become highly adopted in mobile and portable devices such as phones and tablets.

Smart sensor applications:

The range of smart sensor applications in different areas is broad. Smart sensor technologies have been used for monitoring and control mechanisms in a wide variety of environments, including smart grids, flood and water level monitoring systems, environmental monitoring, traffic monitoring and control, energy saving in artificial lighting, remote system monitoring and equipment fault diagnostics, transport and logistics, industrial applications, agriculture and animal tracking, telecommunications, microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and process control, the military, and more.

What are some examples of best practice cases?

In recent years, there have been some successful applications in the sensor sector. For example, Swiss electrical measurement specialists LEM are achieving success by focusing on measurement quality for industrial and automotive applications. Mobileye, an Israeli company that develops advanced vision-based driver support systems, has found success through low-power, inexpensive computing platforms that run a sophisticated object recognition algorithm based on artificial neural networks. And Amazon succeeded in the field of smart sensors by developing Echo, which connects to the cloud-based Alexa Voice Service to play music, ask questions, make calls, send messages, and more.

An example of smart sensor systems is pocket-type gas detectors capable of selectively measuring gases such as hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and ozone, operating on a single battery for a year or more. This family of pocket-sized gas detector systems is specifically designed to be low cost and low power while also having a long battery life.

Another example of smart sensor tech is the “Lick and Stick” leak sensor system. This system is designed to detect hazardous conditions caused by fuel leaks and is produced by microfabrication MEMS-based technology.

Recent developments in smart sensor technology are as follows:

  1.  Smart lighting sensor solutions for smart cities
  2.  e-Health Sensor Shield
  3.  Encryption libraries – AES/RSA cryptography for sensor networks
  4.  3G connectivity to ZigBee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth sensors
  5.  Smartphones and Android devices detected by smart sensors

Why are smart sensors gaining importance? And how have they convinced people to track that data for them?

Advantages of smart sensor systems compared to basic sensors are as follows:

  1. High reliability and high performance
  2. Minimum interconnecting cables
  3. Easy to design, use, and maintain
  4. Scalable, flexible system
  5. Small, rugged packaging
  6. Minimum cost

Smart sensors enhance the following applications:

  1. Communication 
  2. Self-calibration
  3. Computation 
  4. Cost effectiveness 
  5. Multisensing

Smart sensors are also an important and integral element in the Internet of Things (IoT), and as components of a wireless sensor and actuator network (WSAN), smart sensors not only provide digital data but can also provide other information. Therefore smart sensors play an important role in modern technology. From navigation systems in cell phones and smart wearable systems for health monitoring to autonomous driving, demand is rapidly growing. Smart sensors, including signal conditioning, embedded functions, and digital interfaces, are increasingly being adopted by the mobile phone, consumer, and industrial markets, therefore gradually replacing basic sensors. By 2020, sales of about 30 billion units are expected.


Among recent technologies, the smart sensor technology has been in the spotlight because of its potential, significance, and wide range of application areas. These new systems represent a potentially new generation of detection capability and self-awareness, which are key components of future intelligent systems. Smart sensors, which work as part of microelectro-mechanical systems, work with an increasingly diverse and highly accurate input. Complex multilayered operations such as collecting raw data, adjusting sensitivity and filtering, motion detection, analysis, and communication are the main functions expected of intelligent sensors. They are used in all areas of life, from HVAC systems to traffic management, air conditioning systems, and agriculture. 

In the future, smart sensor technologies will have a profound impact on applications such as food safety and biological hazard detection, safety hazard detection and warning, environmental monitoring, health monitoring and medical diagnostics, industrial and aerospace applications, smart antennas, automobiles, and smart highways.

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